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Ferguson police, media now at odds after arrests?
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Ferguson police, media now at odds after arrests?

Ferguson police, media now at odds after arrests?
Photo Credit: Scott Olson
FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 13: An Al Jazeera television crew, covering demonstrators protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, scramble for cover as police fire tear gas into their reporting position on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday. Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, is experiencing its fourth day of violent protests since the killing. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ferguson police, media now at odds after arrests?

There was a fifth night of unrest in Ferguson after the police shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, and it wasn't just citizens arrested Wednesday. Police in the St. Louis suburb had run-ins with the media and arrested two reporters, the arrests and bookings into jail happening without the Ferguson police chief's knowledge.

The Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery took video just before his arrest Wednesday.

Since 18-year-old Brown's death, Ferguson has become the staging area of nightly protests and violence, with protesters taking on the mantra, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." Members of national media descended on the mostly-black suburb after witnesses said Brown was shot in cold blood Saturday while police say the teen scuffled with a still-unnamed white officer and reached for the officer's weapon.

WashPo reporter Lowery says he and The Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were charging their phones and filing reports at a McDonald's near the protest scenes when police came in and ordered everyone out. The men say they refused an officer's order to stop recording the incident, and Lowery says he was told conflicting ways to leave the building before police cuffed him.

The Post released a statement following the arrest, also reporting Lowery was slammed against a soda machine as he was cuffed.

"That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous," said Martin Baron, The Washington Post executive editor.

Police may have used aggression on at least two other media outlets attempting to document the protests over Brown's killing. St. Louis' NBC affiliate KSDK documented both incidents. In the first, a station photographer says he was standing in the street attempting to photograph a protester's arrest when officers hit his camera with a bean bag round.

KSDK's website has a full timeline of that incident and what happened next.

The station says police fired tear gas at an Al Jazeera TV crew, forcing them to leave. You can later see officers taking down the network's lights and tilting the camera toward the ground.

Some outlets have noted police aggression hasn't been entirely unprovoked. While the previous reporters all say they identified themselves as media, a KMOV photojournalist among different protesters says police didn't fire tear gas until threatened.

"The police here exercised all manner of restraint. ... It wasn't until things were actually thrown at them that they took action with tear gas and advanced," said Scott Thomas, KMOV photojournalist.

When the Los Angeles Times informed Police Chief Thomas Jackson officers had arrested two reporters, the newspaper reports Jackson responded, "Oh, God." The Times says Jackson then called the proper jail and had Lowery and Reilly released.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon canceled previously scheduled appearances and announced he'd head to Ferguson Thursday. In a surprisingly reproachful tweet, he admonished law enforcement. "Situation in Ferguson does not represent who we are. Must keep the peace, while safeguarding rights of citizens and the press."

The FBI is conducting its own investigation into Michael Brown's death. While Ferguson police planned to release the name of the officer who shot Brown on Tuesday, they indefinitely delayed that citing threats of violence on social media.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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